Principles and Elements of Design

Instructor: Robin Adair
Tuesdays 5:30-8:30pm
10 weeks: September 19 to November 21
Location: In-person Williams Building room 306
$375 supplies extra
Prerequisite: None

This course will explore the foundational principles involved in planning and constructing 2-dimensional designs. We will focus on how to achieve visual harmony, regardless of style or subject matter, through understanding and applying the concepts of balance, emphasis, rhythm, and scale. In each class, we will discuss contemporary and historical examples by notable artists, engage in hands-on exercises that directly apply our theoretical knowledge, and conduct group critiques of student work in order to develop a language for determining why an image is successful. This course is one of the options for the design class requirement for the Community Arts and Artisanship Certificate Program, and is intended to give you foundational skills that may be applied to two-dimensional artworks in any medium.


  • Course introduction: discussion of form and content
  • Rhythm: repetition; pattern; transition
  • Mixed-media collage study
  • Emphasis: contrast; isolation; positive and negative space
  • Brush and ink study
  • Balance: figure/ground
  • Georges Seurat master copy
  • Colour: Complementary contrast; warm and cool
  • Balance: proximity; horizontal and vertical placement
  • Still-life study
  • Proportion and focal point: the Golden Mean
  • Scale and dimension: 1 and 3 point perspective
  • Unity/Harmony: closure; emergence
  • Create a personal logo design
  • Unity/Harmony: continuation, reification, invariance
  • Independent project

Please note that this outline is subject to change in response to class dynamics and development.


  • Pencils: 2H and 2B Staedtler Mars Lumograph brand is recommended
  • 2 Sakura Pigma Micron fine-tip pens, .05 or .08 tip size
  • 2 calligraphy (chisel-tip) pens
  • 12” metal ruler with cork backing
  • Erasers: 1 kneaded and 1 gum
  • Bamboo ink brush
  • Container of India Ink
  • 12-crayon package of oil pastels
  • 12-crayon package of soft pastels
  • Small bottle of Elmer’s White glue
  • Utility knife
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • 9" x 12" pad of mixed-media paper (Strathmore is a good brand)